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Believe me getting up at 5 am is not on my to do list this time of year. I’m retired and usually don’t drag myself out of bed until after sunrise. The lone exception is the morning of the Midwest Sandhill Crane Count which runs from 5:30 am to 7:30 am. I’m fortunate that my counting area is only 5 minutes from my home so I just need to drag myself out of bed and grab some coffee. This is also the only day of the year that I treat myself to two long johns which I bring along and devour during the count.

As I drove down to the Gilbert Creek Wildlife area, where I count, I noticed a couple of trucks parked in fields with their lights on. I couldn’t figure out who would be up this time of morning and out in a field and then remembered that the Wild Turkey spring hunt was underway.

Canada Goose

As I drove into the valley I could see there was quite a bit of fog although it was perfectly clear up on the ridges. The Gilbert Creek Wildlife Area is strung out and surrounded by roads so I’m usually able to do my counting from the car. Normally it is cold out for the count but this year it was almost 50 degrees out. I usually drive around the area stopping at various locations to listen for the cranes calling. This year, for the first time, the frogs were out and the noise was so loud I don’t think I could have heard the cranes even if they were calling. This is a shot of one of the Canada Geese taken earlier in the week. It is making a path through the thin ice for its mate.

Sandhil Cranes switching places on the nest

I never did hear any cranes but the frogs, blackbirds, geese and ducks were making quite a bit of noise. I’ve counted in this area for about 5 years and never have heard any cranes calling. Normally I see cranes in one small pond and this year was no exception. Just as it was starting to get light out I noticed a bird walking in the water. At first I thought it was one of the Canada Geese but soon noticed the distinctive walking gate of the Sandhill Crane. There were two of them walking among the grasses. It was too dark to take any photos of the cranes. This was taken on another visit.

Mallard

After the crane count I came home and sat it my bird blind for a couple of hours watching a pair of nest building Eastern Bluebirds. This was followed by a three mile hike on the Red Cedar State Trail. Lunch at Culver’s with a two for one coupon for turtle sundaes. With my five cups of coffee, two long johns and a turtle sundae I am ready to crash this afternoon. This is a shot of a Mallard also taken earlier in the week. It was able to walk on the thin ice.

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